Let me ask you a question: Do you want to be anywhere near someone who is purely transactional? Do you trust people who clearly just want to make the sale or get what they want? I sure don’t.

But the opposite is also true. Here’s why.

When I’m on the road it’s tough to get workouts in. I live in hotel rooms and the hours of the workshops and talks I give are crazy. If I’m not careful, I slip into the routine of just living on the road and my body suffers.

A few mornings ago when I was scheduled to give a talk to a Fortune 25 company, I decided I would take my gear and if I got a chance I would try to get a workout in. There was no way it was going to happen, but it was worth a shot.

We showed up in the morning and I finished preparing for my talk with a few hours to spare, so I asked a couple staff members if there was a gym I could use.

Do you know what they had? The private corporate gym of the former Exxon Mobil headquarters. And it was completely empty.

Transactions are rooted in relationships

This was a transaction that took place based on my relationship with this organization. I don’t think I would have asked for this space if I had just shown up for the first time. If this were a brand new relationship, I would have been completely focused on delivering a great experience for them and establishing trust through my performance and through commitment to what we agreed upon.

And that’s exactly what I did the first time I spoke and taught here. The participants really liked it, the feedback was solid and there was a lot of trust established. And so now I’m back here and they’ve hired me on to do this for another year or so.

This is what I mean when I talk about putting the transaction after the relationship. Now I’ve got a place where I can come and train by myself from here on out before or after I speak. That’s a huge transaction for me, and it’s a result of the relationship that I’ve built with this organization. (Yes, you can build relationships with organizations.) And those transactions will continue to spin off of this relationship.

Now, there is an element of reciprocity.

This is why the relationship is the asset, not the transaction. I’m going to pay it forward to the guy who hooked me up. I’m going to make sure he knows how much I appreciate what he did. Because the relationship is the commodity. Not necessarily from a self-interest point of view, but because we have things of value to the other party that may not have the same value to us.

For example, letting me use this space is no big deal to them. No one else is even using it. But to me, it’s huge. Trading those kinds of items of unequal value are transactions that come from relationships. And when you start measuring up, cumulatively, the things that come from our relationships, you run out of paper to record them.

This is just a small example of how you put relationships before transactions in your life.

Relationships are in our nature

That’s how we’re designed as humans. We’re not designed to put transactions first. We do that in Western countries, but it’s not natural, it’s not normal.

That’s why it feels creepy when someone comes to you with a transaction and you don’t know who they are. That’s why you want to get to know someone and build that trust, even if it’s just for a short period of time, before you make a transaction of any kind.

So, me coming in and asking to use this gym space in the very beginning would have been a little forward. A good negotiator, a Rooftop Leader, knows when to ask for those transactions based on the breadth and depth of the relationship. And again, when I focus on the relationship, my inner compass will tell me when the time is right to ask for transactions, when it’s time to pay back transactions and when it’s time to pay it forward. If I just cultivate and tend that relationship like a garden, everything else works itself out.

Honing your leadership skills

And in this fast-paced world, that is tough to do. Because we’re running so hard and everything around us is a contract. Everything around us is a rat race. The good news for Rooftop Leaders is, if you step back and take a breath while everyone else is in the rat race, you realize that the the leaders who focus on trust and storytelling and listening—those are the ones who are going to crush it. They’re going to crush it in their workout, they’re going to crush it in sales and they’re going to crush it at home. There’s a better chance their children are going to follow what they suggest. Their relationships with their loved ones are going to be deeper because that’s where we all live.

That’s what I’m teaching to the leaders at this Fortune 25 company. Exactly what I’m teaching you. Relationships are your greatest asset. Whether you’re a Green Beret or a banker, relationships are your asset. And that’s your end game. As you build relationships for the sake of the relationship and not for the sake of the transaction, then the transactions will take care of themselves.

And you’ll see it as you start to do it.

One step to being a better leader

You can start today. Think about the relationships that you have that are very, very relevant to your life and to your business. Whether that’s at home with your children, your spouse, your parents; or if it’s at work with your customers, your team, your boss.

Write down your top 10 relationships in your life.

How are you doing with tending the garden of those relationships? Are you managing them? If you do, transactions are natural byproducts of the relationship and your leadership skills will strengthen.

And this isn’t theory. This is how human beings have been operating for over a quarter of a million years. This is who we are. This is how we’re designed to interact with each other as social creatures who are at the top of the food chain. And the more we understand the nature of our transaction, the more we understand the power of who we can be.

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